Sloly is Ottawa's first Black police chief

Sloly is Ottawa's first Black police chief

September 4, 2019

Since November 2017, Ottawa has had its first Black Justice of the Peace (JP), Director of Education and Councillor.

Add Police Chief with the appointment of Peter Sloly.

Retired from policing since February 2016 after over 27 years with Toronto Police Service (TPS) where he rose to the rank of Deputy Chief, the 53-year-old internationally recognized security and justice professional is unapologetically thrilled to be back in the police fraternity.

He was unveiled as Ottawa Police Service’s (OPS) new Chief at City Hall on August 26.

Building community partnerships, said Sloly, is a priority in the wake of a recently-released report detailing a high level of disconnect between the police and the community.

“I am a police officer at heart, but I am also a public servant,” said Sloly who will assume his new position next month. “I believe in keeping cities, communities and people safe. I believe in protecting the most marginalized and victimized, but I also believe in the health and resilience of a community and that means you have to work with everyone in everything in every community. You don’t get to pick or choose. Our people go into these communities every single day not knowing what they are going to face and, in some cases, fearing that they might not be able to come back at the end of the day. And in those communities, despite fear and, in some cases, despair, people welcome those officers even if there’s a hint of apprehension. Despite all of the issues we have dealt with over the years, people are willing to form partnerships and tackle some of the toughest issues facing them. It is for that reason that I am a passionate police officer and it’s for that reason that I am so excited to come back into policing.”

Diane Deans, the first woman to chair the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB), said Sloly comes with an impressive background.

“His experience as a former Deputy Chief of the Toronto Police Service and as a highly regarded security and justice consultant in the private sector will serve our city well,” she said. “Although he’s not currently bilingual, he recognizes the importance of communicating in both official languages and is committed to learning French. His passion for community and determination to make needed changes to policing make him someone that the public and members of the OPS can get behind. I am excited for the different and innovative approaches that Mr. Sloly will bring to the Ottawa Police Service.”

Ewart Walters, a former Jamaican diplomat and publisher of the defunct ‘Spectrum’ community newspaper, encouraged Sloly to apply for the job.

“I met Peter for the first time in 2006 in Toronto as we were preparing to go to the Jamaica Diaspora conference,” said the retired public servant. “Though I had not been in touch with him a lot since that time, I followed what he was doing closely and was very impressed. That was the reason why I called him about five months ago about the Ottawa Police Chief job.”

Through Black Agenda Noir which is an Ottawa advocacy group that Walters is affiliated with, city councillors on the OPSB and the Mayor were lobbied on Sloly’s behalf.

“We got Peter to apply and that was really all that was needed to be done,” said the Order of Ottawa recipient. “At the end of the day, he was the best candidate for the post. The kind of experience he brings to the job is beyond what the other candidates have.”

Interim Chief Steve Bell was the other applicant that made the final shortlist to replace Charles Bordeleau who retired last May.

Sloly is joining the Service at a time when there is divide over attempts to diversify its ranks.

“The push towards diversity and culture change has not yet reached either the tipping point or the ranks of Superintendent,” added Walters.

Inspectors Isobel Granger, Debbie Miller, Carl Cartwright and Paul Burnett are the highest-ranking Black officers.

This is not the first time that Sloly has applied to be the OPS Chief.

He sent in an application in 2006 when he was a TPS Staff Superintendent.

“I had just married and my wife and I were at a point in our lives where we thought change might be a good thing,” said the father of two children who has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and is a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 2008 graduate. “I didn’t even make the shortlist then, but I have been coming to Ottawa ever since. When I was a Deputy with Toronto Police, I came to Ottawa because they were always doing innovative things. They had the courage to try things differently.”

Considered a global law enforcement leader in creating, sharing and exchanging information and ideas in virtual communities and networks, Sloly was the executive sponsor of the Police & Community Engagement Review (PACER) undertaken to re-evaluate the way in which law enforcement engages the community.

He demonstrated very early in his law enforcement career that he was a star in the making after finishing first in the application process that involved nearly 1,100 applicants seeking promotion to Sergeant in 1995. He was assigned to 51 Division and handpicked by former Chief Bill Blair, who was then a Staff Inspector, to lead the Service through a transitional period that included community outreach and policing in Regent Park.

Promoted to Staff Sergeant in 1998, Inspector a year later, Staff Inspector in 2002, Superintendent in 2004, Staff Superintendent a year later and Deputy Chief a decade ago, Sloly was the first senior Toronto cop to take part in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo in 2001. He was elevated to a command staff rank and put in charge of coordinating all operational policies and strategic planning for the UN Civilian Force of 10,000 from 52 countries. He was also appointed the UN Mission Canadian contingent commander.

After leaving TPS 43 months ago, Sloly was Deloitte Canada Executive Director for 13 months before becoming a Partner in June 2017. As the organization’s Risk Advocacy Practice national security & justice leader, he specialized in building leading edge cyber security capacity, modernized organizations for success in the digital age and implemented successful diversity & inclusion and human capital strategies.

He also led the development of a National eCrime Cyber Council dedicated to addressing many of the critical priorities and needs as identified in the Canadian Law Enforcement Cybercrime Priorities and Need report.

Born on the same day, August 5, 1966, that the late Harry Jerome won the 100-metre dash at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica, Sloly was a top-notch soccer player. He represented the defunct Toronto Blizzard and Canada at the Under-20 World Cup in the Soviet Union in 1985 before becoming a police officer three years later.

Among Sloly’s teammates in the Soviet Union was Alex Bunbury who had a distinguished career for Canada at the senior international level.

“Peter was my roommate and one of our captains and did he ever show leadership to a young player like me when I most needed it,” the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame inductee said. “He was also kind and very accommodating to all of us. I am truly proud of him and this historic appointment couldn’t have gone to a better person.”

Though leading a busy professional career, Sloly still found time to sit on the boards of several organizations in the last 13 years. They include Covenant House Toronto, Merry Go Round Children’s Foundation, Trust 15, Canadian Red Cross, and the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, the Wellesley Institute, YWCA of Greater Toronto and CivicAction.

Holding high-profile positions of leadership in the nation’s capital isn’t unusual for Blacks.

In the early 1990s, the late Julius Isaac was the Federal Court of Canada Chief Justice, Gilbert Scott was the Public Service of Canada Commissioner and Glenda Simms held the post of President & Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Since the June 2017 announcement of Paul Harris as Ottawa’s first Black JP, Camille Williams-Taylor became Canada’s third Black Director of Education after Harold Brathwaite and Dr. Avis Glaze and Rawlson King was elected the first Black Councillor in the city’s 163-year history.

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